Tour de France: The mystery behind having 'good legs'

Updated 1518 GMT (2318 HKT) July 21, 2017

Story highlights

  • The mystery of cycling's 'good legs'
  • Tour de France features a number of grueling climbs

(CNN)As with any elite sport, cycling is a combination of talent and effort, aided by sports science and meticulously planned dietary regimes.

Riders do everything within their power to ensure they are in optimum condition to produce the best possible results in any given race.
Long gone are the days of post-race meals of lobster and champagne -- hat tip Jacques Anquetil. In 2017 it's all about ice baths and kale.
Yet for all the detailed pre-race preparation and recovery after each day's stage, there's one mystery cycling can't solve: the phenomenon of "good legs" -- or "bonne jambes" in French.
On any particular morning, seemingly for no real reason at all, a cyclist will wake up feeling especially sprightly.
The legs don't tire as quickly, if at all, and even the steepest of mountain climbs seemingly flatten as the rider begins their ascent.
For amateur cyclists, it's said "good legs" can occur as little as five times throughout their riding lives -- each time is a blessing and the day is fondly remembered for years.
Of course, for the professionals it's a more common occurrence -- though not by much -- and riders at this year's Tour de France will need as many "good legs" as they can get.
The 104th edition of cycling's most prestigious race sees the riders tackle a grueling 23-day, 21-stage, 3,540-kilometer route that takes in 23 mountain climbs and affords competitors just two rest days.
This includes five of France's mountain ranges: the Vosges, Jura, Pyrénées, Massif central and the Alps.
Some of Le Tour's most iconic climbs include:
  • Col du Tourmalet (2,115m): Introduced in 1910, French rider Octave Lapize was the first to go over its summit.
  • Col d'Izoard (2,360m): Introduced in 1922, Louison Bobet of France was victorious in 1950, 1953 and 1954 and this year's race sees the climb's first ever summit finish.
  • Mont Ventoux (1,912m): Introduced in 1951, three-time winner and current yellow jersey holder Chris Froome made history last year by running up the mountain after a crash forced him to abandon his bike.
  • Alpe d'Huez (1,860m): Introduced in 1952, Frenchman Thibaut Pinot won the last summit finish in 2015.